The NDP would support Laurentienne, a French university in the North: Horwath


“We are committed to making sure they are both funded properly,” said the chef during his visit to Sudbury

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According to Ontario’s New Democrats, the Ford government has turned its back on one of Sudbury’s crown jewels – Laurentian University – in its darkest hour and left it to fend for itself.


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It is a point that NDP leader Andrea Horwath has said the party will remind Sudburians with a provincial election in less than a year.

When it became clear that the 60-year-old bilingual university was in dire financial straits and a bailout was needed, the province should have immediately stepped in and led the process, Horwath told reporters during a shutdown at Laurentian Wednesday.

“I am ready to speak with the community to determine what is the best way for Laurentian to move forward,” said Horwath. “There is clearly a need to talk. This community and the North in general should have both (an English-speaking university and a French-speaking university) and we are committed to ensuring that they are both properly funded.

Horwath, who was joined by Sudbury MLA Jamie West, Nickel Belt MLA France Gelinas, Laurentian Faculty of Management Emeritus Professor Jean-Charles Cachon, and other NDP MLAs, also met with the leaders of the Laurentian student union, the small local company Cosmic Dave’s Vinyl Emporium and the United Steelworkers during his visit here.

In February, Laurentian announced that it had sought protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act as it took steps to balance its books and avoid bankruptcy. One of the main steps taken was the dissolution of Laurentian’s partnership agreement with its three federated universities, Thorneloe, Huntington and the University of Sudbury.


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Huntington is no longer in business as it sold its gerontology program to Laurentian. Thorneloe attempted to prevent Laurentian from terminating the partnership agreement, but to no avail. Finally, the University of Sudbury is trying to reappear as an autonomous French-language university on the Laurentian campus.

Laurentian also eliminated 58 undergraduate programs (34 in English and 24 in French) and 11 graduate programs, and laid off nearly 200 professors, support staff and administrators. The cuts are expected to save Laurentian approximately $ 30 million annually in operating costs.

The Laurentian CCAA process is not yet complete, but this summer, the university was given the green light to proceed to its 2021-22 school year by the judge in charge of the case.

Horwath said Laurentian is too important to give up.

“Not only does this create good, well-paying jobs, but it also creates opportunities for young people, an affordable place to stay close to home, stay close to home and build their careers and opportunities right here in Sudbury,” said she declared.

The leader of the official opposition said years of underfunding have led universities to take measures such as trying to attract more international students to make up for their financial deficits.

“The amount of money we have provided to post-secondary institutions in Ontario has been declining for some time now,” she said. “I’m not positive, but I think we (Ontario) are at the bottom of the barrel in terms of per student capital funding with post-secondary institutions. Yes, Laurentian is in a particular quagmire, but other post-secondary institutions are struggling. Less than 50 percent of their operating funds are provided by the Province of Ontario.


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Horwath said Premier Doug Ford is taking a hands-off approach to Laurentian’s bankruptcy situation.

“You can’t really deal with this kind of problem if you don’t actually show up,” she said. “We know that a number of jobs have been lost, a number of programs have been cut. We know that this has put a lot of students in real crisis …

“It’s ordinary people who pay the price, whether it’s the people who work here or the community as a whole. Everyone pays the price when the government does not show up. We must have a strong Laurentian University. This is what the community wants.

Cachon, who was laid off when Laurentian cut dozens of programs, said the faculty union was the treasurer of 180 lost members. Two years ago, he said, the union had 408 members.

“We are talking about almost half of the faculty that has been lost,” he said.

Cachon said eliminating unique French-language programs, which were only available at Laurentian, will see students who enrolled in them go elsewhere, such as the University of Ottawa.

“It means the clock has been put back 60 years now,” he said. “Welcome to the 1950s.”

The former professor emeritus said that Greater Sudbury was the only major city in northern Ontario to resist the downward trend in population and he believes Laurentian has played an important role in this regard. With Laurentian’s downsizing, Cachon predicts that Greater Sudbury will retreat further.


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Cachon also predicted that the job losses at Laurentian and their economic fallout will not be felt immediately in the community, but the full impact should be seen in a year or two.

“It is a very sad situation, not only for Northern Ontario, but for Ontario and Canada in general,” he said.

West, the Member of Parliament for Sudbury, said he is living proof of what a good post-secondary education can do as he attended Laurentian despite a humble upbringing and learned to think critically.

West said the Ford government has a duty to get involved and help Laurentian.

“Yet the government has remained inactive and refuses to act, refuses to come forward,” he said.

West said it’s a shame that programs like the physics program, which was involved with the Sudbury Neutrino Lab and helped win a Nobel Prize, have been phased out at Laurentian.

“It’s not fair,” he said. ” It’s not correct. When previous governments told us that we would never have a PET scanner, we went to get one. When previous governments said we would never have a cancer center, we stood up, fought back and won.

Horwath said Premier Ford and his government simply failed to take the initiative to address the Laurentian insolvency problem.

“You don’t do this by sitting in Queen’s Park, but by introducing yourself and leading the conversation,” she said. “You hire the experts necessary to find the solution …

“We are fighting for Sudbury. We are fighting for the North. But, Mr. Ford, he spends a lot of time fighting for his pals.

The NDP leader also said that high tuition fees and the resulting student debt in Ontario must also be addressed.

“Students are leaving college with debts the size of a mortgage,” Horwath said. “They push back all kinds of lifestyle choices because they’re under a mountain of debt. How do people see hope for the future when post-secondary leaves them with this kind of financial burden?

Twitter: @HaroldCarmichae


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